Counterfeit products are a billion dollar business

CLEVELAND - We're all trying to save money, but saving a buck could put your family at risk. Counterfeiting is a $600 billion operation that's impacting local families.

Spotting one is as easy as taking a close look at a product. What do you pay attention to when you're shopping? Is it the brand, price, fabric or company you're buying from? You really need to look at all four items to really spot a fake.

Cindy Brice is an online bargain shopper.

"I've worked in retail so it's hard for me to pay full price for anything," Brice said. She clicked "buy" when she saw The North Face jacket on sale for half off. Brice focused only on the price, and not the business selling the item. "

Because I was buying a name. I knew it was his size, it was the color he wanted, so I never thought that much about it," Brice said.

When the zipper fell off after just a few weeks, Brice took a closer look at the quality of the jacket.

"The seams just seem to be very raw," Brice said. We asked what she expects from a product like The North Face. "The seams are perfect."

NewsChannel5 sent the jacket in question to The North Face. The company determined the garment was a counterfeit adding, "It appears to be an attempt to copy the Mens Denali Jacket in Heather Grey Fleece colorway. The team reported that it is a very poor fleece fabric quality with unbranded zippers (centerfront zipper is broken with slider missing). Trim fabric, cordlocks, and cuff snaps are not our specified materials. It is lacking our standard care, content, country-of-origin, tracking, and The North Face security labels."

"The problem is huge," said trademark attorney Deborah Wilcox of Baker & Hostetler . "Pharmaceuticals, airplane parts, car brakes, it's not just clothing."

Wilcox is President of the Cleveland Intellectual Property Lawyers Association, and trains law enforcement to spot counterfeits. They cost all of us money, and could be health and safety risks.

"I have seen extension cords that you plug in that are certified to be safe, but when you plug them in they catch fire," Wilcox said.

"It's a global problem. You have to stop it one person at a time. If you stop buying the fakes, people will stop making them," Wilcox said. Wilcox said price and quality are the two biggest red flags.

"Did the price seem to good to be true?" we asked Brice. "Yes, in retrospect." Brice said.

To avoid a fake, buy only from authorized retailers . Brice bought her jacket from Crawford Collections. It's a company The North Face said is not authorized to sell their merchandise. The company also hasn't responded to my requests for comment.

The North Face did respond and offered Brice a new jacket.

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